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You Get the Supplier You Earn

Recently on LinkedIn, I read the results of a very small (N=6) study* of the relationship between pay rates for a freelance-writing project and the quality of the writer’s final output.  The study was sponsored by a company who matches freelance writers with assignments, so this was not a purely academic exercise.  And, although their findings weren’t surprising, the author’s conclusion rings true: “You get what you pay for.”

This study segmented the respondent/writers per their level of experience, and then compared the quality of their output.  The “beginner’s” work required about three times as much copy-editing and contained about seven times as many errors as the “expert’s.” One of the two [mid-experience-range] “pros” was caught in “significant plagiarism.”  And while both two participating “experts” submitted their assignments on time, one of the two “beginners” never submitted anything.

 

So, yes, it’s true: you, the buyer, get what you pay for.  But now, since we’re exploring a transaction, let’s now flip our perspective to view this same situation from the supplier’s point of view, which might be summed up: “Supplier attitudes are greatly impacted by anticipated compensation.”

While the supplier’s side of the transaction is not nearly so well-explored, the supplier-side sentiment is hardly original.  In fact, a recent email** from the president of a sample company illustrates this point nicely.  To build a compelling argument for his company’s practice of paying respondents promptly and generously, this president describes his reaction to being paid USD$1.63 to participate (as a respondent) in a 15-minute-long online survey: “People value what they pay for, and I think the opinions and experiences of our patients and caregivers carry more weight than if they had been offered $1.63.”  But then he adds: “[Our prompt and generous payment] is much appreciated by our panelists.  Some certainly don’t need it, but others tell us how helpful it is…and all appreciate being respected.”

 

To emphasize: direct compensation is important, but so is a feeling of mutual respect between the client and the supplier.

In a working relationship of mutual respect, over time the walls between “supplier” and “client” dissolve into a seamless client/supplier partnership.  Your business problems become their problems, effortlessly keeping both of you up at night.  Two heads, applied creatively to a challenging scenario, are more productive than one.  And all those annoying disconnects you’ve been wrestling with, are now being mentally (and electively) wrestled by your supplier as well.

For the supplier/professional, sharing the client’s burdens can become a source of joy, because being confident of a client’s willingness to both compensate fairly and respect them professionally is about as good as a freelance working relationship could get.  And in that working environment, it’s not difficult at all for a supplier to move beyond professional duty and fall in love with the client’s projects.

The simple truth is that suppliers want to love their projects: the feeling is emblematic of a relationship where professional respect is both given and received.  Furthermore, clients should want suppliers to love their projects because in that context, any project-related setback is only a temporary challenge and quitting is not an option.  Given the opportunity to choose, a good supplier who loves their client’s project will go to the mat for it…

Another truth is that clients have the power to make sure that suppliers love their projects, by compensating them fairly and respecting their professionalism.  Simple, but similarly important…. because clients truly do get the suppliers they earn.

About the Author: Laurie Bredenfoerder, MBA, PRC is a veteran independent qualitative market research consultant based in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She holds a B.S. in Journalism from Bowling Green State University, an MBA from Xavier University, and a Professional Researcher Certification from the Insights Association.  Laurie is a board member of the Insights Association’s Great Lakes Chapter, a national committee chairperson for the Qualitative Research Consultants Association, a wife, and a proud mother of a wonderful son. Reach her by email: bvalley@fuse.net.

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